California Golden Bears vs. TCU Horned Frogs
Date and Time: Wednesday, December 26, 2018, 9 p.m. ET
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Opening CFB Odds: Cal PK, 41
California vs. TCU TV Coverage: ESPN
Cal is headed back to the bowl season after a three-year hiatus, and it’ll be matched up against a Big 12 opponent for the second time in its last three postseason appearances. It dropped a 21-10 decision to the Texas Longhorns as 3 point dogs back in 2011. Justin Wilcox took over the mess from the prior regime two years ago and coached the team to a 5-7 record.
This time around, the Golden Bears logged a 7-5 record and proved to be a decent investment in going 6-5-1 ATS. Cal tallied some big wins in the regular season which included going into BYU and scoring the 21-18 upset win, and shocking Washington at home as 12-point dogs.
This season opened up well for Gary Patterson and the Horned Frogs who toyed with both Southern and SMU before getting humbled by both Ohio State and Texas in successive weeks. After earning a hard fought 17-14 win and non-cover against Iowa State, TCU went on to drop three straight Big 12 contests. In the process, QB1 Shawn Robinson was lost for the season against Oklahoma which saw the offense completely fall off the map.
Over its final five games without him under center, TCU managed to score an average of just 19.4 points per game with Michael Collins leading the offensive attack. He’s listed as questionable to go in this game. Senior Grayson Muehlstein will be called upon to make the first start of his collegiate career.
23 – Save for lopsided losses against both Oregon and surprisingly UCLA, the Golden Bears defense rose to the occasion. In their seven wins, the opposition never scored greater than 23 points. In fact, Cal’s defense only allowed an average of just 15.8 points per game. This is a defense that held BYU, Arizona, Oregon State, Washington State and USC to a grand total of 82 points. That equates to just 16.4 points per game! With TCU already entering this matchup with questions on the offensive side of the ball, Cal’s defense looks to be the best unit that will be taking the field with ranked No. 16 overall and No. 24 in points allowed.
Matchup To Watch
The team that’s best able to proclaim its dominance on the ground will likely come out of what looks to be a slobber knocker on paper. Jalen Reagor has been a special talent for the Horned Frogs both in the running and passing games, but he’s not the type of runner that can pound it between the tackles and tire Cal’s stout run defense out.
Patrick Laird is exactly that type of runner, and he’s going to be a load for TCU to keep in check all game long. The senior ran for 935 yards and 5 TD while averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Also in his corner is the more experienced Chase Garber who threw for over 1,400 yards and completed 61 percent of his passes en route to logging a 14:7 TD/INT ratio. Cal hardly runs a pretty offensive attack, but it looks to hold the edge at both the quarterback and running back positions in this matchup.
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This should be a bloody brawl right from the opening kick. Big plays are likely to be few and far between with both defenses well coached and tough to score on. With that, the total’s move south at online sportsbooks is likely correct with the first to 20 likely the victor of this contest. However, I’m all in on Cal taking another step forward with Wilcox putting his thumbprint on the program in hopes of turning the Bears into a Pac-12 powerhouse for years to come.
While the Horned Frogs have experienced loads of success in the bowl season under the Patterson regime, he doesn’t have the best team on his sideline in this matchup. I have Cal favored by a field goal in this line, so I’ll gladly back them in what linemakers are telling me is basically a pick ‘em game.
CFB ATS Betting Pick: Cal -1 at BookMaker.eu
CFB Score Prediction: Golden Bears 22 – Horned Frogs 13